DELAYS to a coronavirus testing lab in Newport have been blamed on recruitment problems.

The city's planned Lighthouse laboratory – part of a UK government testing network – was due to open in Duffryn's Imperial Park in August, but is now set to open in October.

The delays come a week after Wales' first minister Mark Drakeford called for more communication from Boris Johnson's Westminster government over matters, including issues with the Lighthouse lab scheme.

At a Senedd health committee meeting yesterday (Wednesday), Public Health Wales' executive director Quentin Sandifer said he had asked the UK government why the lab was delayed.

"It is our understanding that there are a combination of factors, including still ongoing recruitment and matters to go with the validation of the laboratory, before it can go live," he told ministers.

When plans for the lab were first revealed, it was announce 200 specialist jobs would be created at the site.


Dr Sandifer said the Newport lab's development had been transferred to the UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), but he was "expecting that to open very shortly".

The DHSC told the Argus plans were on track for the Newport lab to open next month, with equipment in place and staff recruited.

“In the last few months we have rapidly built the largest diagnostic testing capacity in British history, outstripping all major countries in Europe with more testing per head of population," a DHSC spokesperson said.

“We have new lighthouse laboratory capacity coming online, including in Newport, Newcastle, Bracknell and Charnwood, as we drive towards our testing capacity target of 500,000 a day by the end of October.”

Speaking to the Argus, Newport West MS Jayne Bryant said: “When we’re seeing an increase in demand for testing, the delay by the UK government to the promised Lighthouse Lab at Imperial Park in Newport is disappointing and frustrating to say the least.

"The issues with the Lighthouse Labs which we’re seeing across the UK needs to be urgently resolved to ensure we have capacity in the system.”

In the meeting, committee member Rhun Ap Iorwerth said the delay "maybe goes to explain why we're in the hole we're in, if that lab in Newport hasn't opened".

He said the issue of testing was of "major concern" to Senedd members, with "people contacting us to say how difficult they finding it to get tests at the moment".

PHW chief executive Tracey Cooper said Wales sends a large number of its tests to the UK's Lighthouse labs for processing.

The system had been working "pretty well" until a few weeks ago but had since "deteriorated" and the turnaround times in Lighthouse labs were now "of concern".

PHW and the Welsh health boards were now looking at maximising their testing capacity within Wales, Dr Cooper added.

She said PHW was currently processing around 2,500 tests each day, but could be increased "very easily if the samples come to us".

Dr Cooper said PHW was looking at creating additional lanes, specifically for tests to be processed within Wales, at some of the nation's major testing centres – including at Rodney Parade in Newport.